Brexit – an analysis in the aftermath.
When people discuss politics with me, I fairly quickly come to a conclusion that they fall into one of two general groups. The first is what I think of as political theorists. They tend to base their opinions on whatever is the given and unquestioned knowledge of the peer group they like to think of themselves as being in, or at least aspire to. They’re not stupid people, and indeed sometimes have had some sort of education, but the problem is their blind spot of assuming an electorate will naturally vote in a way which conforms to their enlightened view of how they should behave.
The younger theorists invariably tend to exercise something more akin to virtue signalling rather than anything resembling politics, and too many of the older ones have never outgrown what amounts to pandering to their own vanity or a fear of how others might perceive them. In essence, they’re politically unaware.
The second type are political pragmatists, who’ve evolved out of the theorist category. Where they differ from the theorists is they’ve seen electorates performing totally contrary to prevailing political theory, and instead of writing it off as an aberration every time it occurs, drop out of the airy sky of political theory and land back down to solid Earth with a jolt to do some boots on the ground exploration of what actually happened. It may seem obvious, but when the result of an election clashes wildly with what theory predicted, then your theory just might be wrong.
Both of these types populate equally the left and right wings of mainstream politics, with the pragmatists always being outnumbered by the theorists. Note that the theorists are not the only ones to operate on principle. To some extent, and although they tend to have fewer and less grandiose ones, principles serve as the hard guiding lines over which a pragmatist has decided they won’t ever stray.
In the last two decades in the western democracies, what has arisen to power in the mainstream parties of both the left and the right are the theorists, though not quite as chronically in the latter. Of course, they all see themselves as wily pragmatists, but their poor predictions with regard to how the voter will behave give the lie to that self-assessment. Their first instincts lean more to the theoretical, and this has been reinforced by their gradual alienation from their natural supporters and the bald fact that almost to a man they’ve had a rich, privileged and cosseted upbringing.
They actually don’t listen to ordinary people or indeed have any idea what they’re thinking because for most of their life they’ve had little or no contact with ordinary people.
Their only understanding of their voters is as abstract objects viewed through the filtered lens of their own particular political theory. This has not even been acknowledged as a problem because the only feedback or criticism they react to is by people in the same elevated strata of society, or a snippy but relatively tame mass media who are just as detached from the concerns of the common person.
This disconnect has been further compounded by political pundits whose mindset is locked into the status quo and pollsters who’re similarly self-censoring of any opinions they think fly in the face of what everybody around them is thinking. Also, the respondents to such polls, under media and social pressures, increasingly tend to tell the pollsters what they want to hear, but in the secrecy of a poll booth are able to express what they really think without being subject to instant condemnation by a Lynch mob of thought police.
Given the crushing disasters of political polls in the last few years, who in their right mind would trust any of them?
In a visceral sense, both Conservative and Labour politicians think of themselves respectively as fighting for an aspirant middle class or the downtrodden workers. The fault with that classical perception of themselves and each other is that it ignores the fact that nowadays the bedrock voters of either party are neither rich nor in abject poverty, and that’s been the case for some time.
The electorate haven’t mapped onto that simplistic Marxist world view since the 1980’s when Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter, successfully pitched aspiration to the blue-collar worker and did a job of social engineering on class war politics it’s never quite recovered from. In the 1990s, Tony Blair, one of the few left-wingers to genuinely accept and work with that change of demographic, won three straight Labour elections in a row using essentially that same pitch to the electorate. The left, of course, hate him and will never forgive him for it either.
If you accept the analysis that there has been a growing disconnect between establishment politicians and their traditional voter bases, then what I think happened with the Brexit referendum was just the latest example of an electorate whose patience had snapped. All too often the establishment’s control freak reflex of restricting the issues on which the theorists had determined an election is to be fought on, while keeping off the agenda any concerns of the electorate which they find distasteful or which they think might alienate their theoretical foot soldiers, had frustrated voters.
If you’re pondering on the rise of strange and exotic outliers into the political firmament all around the world, that’s the basic reason. They’re giving a voice to people who don’t share the theorist’s strictly enforced viewpoints nor the limited range of options on offer from them.
As a friend confided to me in one general election, all the people and policies on offer are just different degrees of shit and none of them are the ones he’d go for. For once, the voter had a simple choice between going along with what every organ of the establishment was telling them they should do or waving two fingers at the lot of them. They duly turned out in record numbers to wave their fingers and despite the howls of outrage from the establishment and the rampant hysteria of the media in the aftermath of the results, they’d do exactly the same thing again, only more so if given a second opportunity.
For the last week the mainstream media in conjunction with an outraged establishment, have been hyper-ventilating their way towards an explanation of why such a simple exercise of basic democracy was somehow wrong because it came up with a result they didn’t agree with.
The media story is settling down to something along the lines of a bright, beautiful and noble future has just been blighted and snatched away by a bunch of racist over sixty year old farts. That’s the story, and it’s rapidly becoming the accepted narrative of the Brexit event for the hard of thinking. Given the 48:52 ratio, one does have to wonder how the hell all those old farts defied the demographics, never mind the mortality rates, to nick such an extraordinary result. Who’d have thought more than half the population were over sixty and all racists to boot?
If you really need to blame anyone about Brexit, there are only three people in the frame; Merkel, Juncker and Cameron.
Merkel, without consulting anyone since Germany actually runs the EU, said come one, come all, to what was presented as war refugees and was promptly inundated with a flood of a million and a half opportunist young men happy to live on welfare, while disinclined to look for work but more inclined to sexually harass women and children; a sexual peccadillo the rapist results of which a mainstream media felt obliged not to report. There’s another summer wave of them on the way and the only way of stopping it is letting into the EU the dictatorship in all but name that Turkey has become.
Juncker has all the political nous of a street corner thug, which isn’t helped by him accompanying his breakfast with his first Scotch of the day. He’s appointed rather than elected, and his background of running the tax avoidance haven of a minuscule state like Luxemburg leads him to believe he can threaten and intimidate 65 million people, who bristled with anger at each of his successively more dire threats. If anything, his remarks made it vividly clear to ordinary people how continued membership of the EU was simply submitting to an unelected dictatorship of bureaucratic and self-serving thugs like him.
Cameron, being a perfect exemplar of the political disconnect, offered a referendum in the sure and certain belief he could carry it off. It was an uninformed misjudgment of massive proportions. Despite heading up a Remain campaign that had the endorsement of every major party, all of the establishment figures, all the money, all the media and every scare story under the sun, he still lost.
The next thing to ponder is where is it all going to end?
Short term, there’s a lot of local party political power struggles going on and the knives have really come out, but a measure of advice I’d offer to all involved is that the electorate never get fond of, or warm to, people ready to bury with alacrity a dagger in the back of a supposed friend, as last year’s general election made clear. If someone cannot be trusted as an ally not to betray you, why would you trust them as a leader?
Looking at the dreaded bigger picture of Brexit’s longer term impact on the EU, there’s a saying in investment circles when it comes to company trading statements which seems very applicable. First there’s a stumble, then there’s a trip and then there’s the fall.
The ongoing Euro crisis and the resultant serfhood for generations of the southern EU states to Brussels was the stumble, the unrestricted flood of shiftless migrants into Europe last year was the trip and Brexit is the fall which I think will break it unless it fundamentally reforms and backs off political union to its originally intended aim of a free market and nothing more – but I think the damage has been done and it’s terminal.
All across the EU, the watching member states and their citizens, who’d been assured withdrawal from the EU was impossible, are starting to agitate for their own referendum. The only people responding to that democratic impulse are extremist parties who are gradually gaining political power as discontent seethes because it’s being ignored by the disconnected mainstream parties. They do so at their peril, as the British political establishment have just learnt to their cost.
A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of contagion.